Family shares love of Lake Tahoe through scuba diving tours
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — One family business is sharing their lifelong passion through scuba tours of Lake Tahoe.
Just So Scuba, owned by Tom and Carry Loomis and their daughter, Sidney Stimac, is entering its second year at Lake Tahoe. But their history in and on the water goes back decades.
Tom was first certified as a diver in 1976. His family had a cabin on Fallen Leaf Lake and he spent many hours discovering and exploring the underwater forest of the lake.
In the early 90s, Tom, who was a dump truck operator at the time, and Carrie took a diving trip to Maui. Their guide started his company after retiring as a dump truck operator, and the similarities to his own life got Tom’s gear’s turning. He knew one day, when he retired, he wanted to start his own diving company.
Stimac was born in 1994 and it soon became apparent that diving was in her blood.
“I don’t have any memory of this, but apparently when I was a teeny tiny little thing, [my dad] would put a little water in the bathtub and he would bring a scuba tank and regulator in and I would lay face down in the bathtub and breath down a tank when I was like 2 years old. They would have to keep coming in and put warm water in it because I spent all day in there,” Stimac said.
Her first “real” dive was when she was 6 years old, in Fiji. Loomis dove down while holding Stimac and she was breathing using his tank.
They didn’t go down very far, they were just off the sand. Stimac saw a lionhead fish, just under a head of coral.
“It was eye-opening for me, just the fact that I could breathe underwater and I could experience the fish and I could just get away from all of this is what it did for me,” Stimac said. “And I have spent my whole life since then trying to spend as much time on the water as possible.”
Loomis also vividly remembers the experience.
“Something happened, she came up out of that and the look in her face, it meant something deep to her,” Loomis said. “It was awesome.”
Since that day, Stimac has logged over 2,000 hours in the water. When she was 12, she got her diving certification, which is the youngest age possible.
She graduated high school early so that she could do a divemaster training internship in Honduras at 18 years old. She’s also since received her advanced certification in open water rescue.
After receiving her instructor certification, she moved to Maui to work on one of the island’s premier scuba operation’s boat.
In January 2017, Loomis had reached retirement and started looking for a boat to purchase. He found the one he’d been looking for in Louisiana, sitting in the bayou.
Loomis and Stimac went to Louisiana to check it out. They purchased it and drove it back to Tahoe together, barely making it over the mountains in a snowstorm.
“It took most of that winter getting it to where they would let us put it in the lake,” Loomis said. “So we ran it for ourselves and took the time to get to know the boat.”
In the winter of 2018, they took it out of the water and did a complete overhaul and got it to, “near perfect for a six-pack boat,” Loomis said.
Finally, in the summer of 2020, they put their boat named “Payan Kun,” in the water and started their company, “Just So Scuba.”
Just So Scuba
They named their company after Just So Stories for Little Children, a 1902 collection of origin stories by the British author Rudyard Kipling.
The story, “The Crab that Played with the Sea,” tells the tale of how tides were created. The Eldest Magician introduces animals into the world and tells them how to be, telling them,” Payah kun,” which means, “quite right.”
Just So Scuba offers diving tours in Lake Tahoe. Although they have many secret places they like to take clients, they most often take clients to the Rubicon wall and Emerald Bay.
The tours include breakfast, time in the water in one location, an hour break on the boat with fresh food that Loomis makes while the divers are in the water and more time diving in a second location.
Divers do need to be certified to do a tour but they can range from beginner to expert. The locations of the tours depend on the clients skill level and interests.
In addition to traditional tours, they offer night dives. Also, Stimac is ordained and performs underwater marriage ceremonies.
Carry Loomis works in the office, handling billing and scheduling, Tom Loomis drives the boat and makes the food and Stimac dives with the clients.
In California, a divemaster does not need to be in the water, they just need to be on the boat. But because Stimac loves diving so much and because of the complexities of diving at high altitude, she always goes in the water with the clients.
When it comes to diving in Tahoe versus the ocean, Tom Loomis said, “It’s basically the same except for the salt water, the fish, the sharks, the coral, the temperature and the altitude … “
“So, diving here is very gear intensive,” Loomis added seriously.
Most people who dive in Tahoe, dive in a dry suit which takes up more space and because the dry suits don’t absorb water, they have to dive with weights to help keep them down.
While the basic technique is the same, the altitude impacts the speed at which a diver can surface. Stimac said watches tell divers at the rate at which they can surface.
Geology and Science
The other thing that makes diving in Lake Tahoe unique is the views themselves. While swimming with colorful fish (and maybe even sharks) over beautiful coral is an incredible experience, Tahoe’s geography has no comparison.
“Mostly it’s the structure of the lake and the geography of the lake and how it was created,” Stimac said. “We have different sites that have different topography, like we did a site over further down here that you get down and it’s just shelves of compacted mud basically and then just a couple miles south of that is Rubicon wall and it’s just sheer rock, so it’s very different everywhere you go.”
Loomis and Stimac describe themselves as “rock people.” Loomis’ father, Alden Loomis, was a geologist who helped map the geology of desolation wilderness and is author of the geology text, “Petrology of the Fallen Leaf Lake Area.”
Tom grew up learning about geology, as did Stimac.
So, their tours aren’t just about diving but are also a history and geology lesson of the basin. They teach people about the ancient tsunami that helped create the lake or about the fault line running through the lake or the underwater waterfall. They take people to see lumber that was abandoned in the lake by lumber companies after the clear cut the forest.
Their passion for diving and the lake is what makes their tours special. And it’s not just geology that they are passionate about.
Stimac has spent years performing her own scientific experiments in the lake, graphing clarity and learning about the creatures that live in Tahoe and the surrounding lakes, even down to the single-celled organisms.
Even during the interview with the Tribune, which took place on the Payah Kun, they stopped the boat to pull a deflated balloon out of the water. Carry Loomis said they pull trash out anytime they see it.
Loomis and Stimac have both worked on shark saving projects and passionately care about the creatures in the water.
They care about creatures on land too. During the interview, the family’s two golden retrievers, Hollis and Boot, were on the boat. While anchored, Stimac’s husband Patrick threw the ball over and over for them, while the dogs continually launched themselves into the water.
The family has hundreds of stories, too many to share, about the places they’ve been, the things they’ve done, the things they’ve seen and the things they have yet to do and see.
Next year, Just So Scuba will be setting up shop in Maui, so to hear their stories and to experience their tours in Tahoe, this is the summer to do it.
For more information, visit justsoscuba.com.
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